The young, creative and brilliant minds on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list are coming in strong and taking the world by storm. Defying all odds as we face the ongoing pandemic, they are infecting the world with a new form of virus — ground breaking, innovative ideas that are leading a whole new generation of change.
Here at Reslife, we are so proud to announce that one of our very own Resident Assistants (RA) at Prince George’s Park Residences (PGPR), Mr Gururaj Parande (Guru) made the list.
Together with his partner, Mr Vyasaraj Manakari in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, they started Magloy Tech, specializing in the research and development of bioresorbable magnesium implants – basically, implants that will dissolve safely in the body over time. We managed to score an exclusive interview with Guru, so read on to find out more about how he managed to study, work, be an RA and still found a start-up!
Magloy Tech was chosen as one of the 20 leading MedTech start-ups in Asia-Pacific region transforming the healthcare industry by MedTech Innovator and was part of the 2020 MedTech Innovator Asia Pacific Accelerator.
1. Hi Guru, let’s get to know you! Can you introduce yourself and some of your hobbies?
Hi, I am Guru and I’m currently a Research Fellow here in NUS’ Department of Mechanical Engineering. I have also been a Resident Assistant in Prince George Park since 2017. Graduate studies tend to be very solitary as we work independently most of the time, so being an RA allowed me to expand my social circle and have fun.
2. Could you share a little more about your company, Magloy Tech and how it came to be?
Magloy Tech is a start-up that has invented OrthoMag – a biocompatible, non-toxic magnesium alloy for developing bioresorbable implants (meaning that it dissolves in the body over time). Current implants used for orthopaedics and cranio-maxillofacial fracture fixations are typically made of titanium or steel and need to be removed via a revision surgery. As this brings on side effects like infections, pain and death of healthy body tissue (necrosis) — along with the need for an additional hospital stay — the invention of OrthoMag significantly reduces post-surgery complications and the long-term physical, financial and emotional burden on patients.
I was working with magnesium for my PhD project where we had to develop magnesium-based materials for the medical sector. It was then that I realised that it could also be used to create an innovative version of bioabsorbable implants. Currently, magnesium elements that have the ability to degrade in the body are already being used in other medical treatments like Angioplasty (where stents are used to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels that supply blood to the heart). So I would say that our discovery was more of an innovation rather than a completely new invention, because we simply developed a way to use magnesium-based implants – in orthopaedics, specifically. If you compare it to cooking, the procedure is kind of like how rice on its own is basic but with spices added to it, it can become elevated to a whole new level!
3. Let’s talk about how you manage to find the time to work, run a start-up, do research and also be an RA at the same time…plus get enough sleep maybe?
I like to categorise my tasks according to what my greatest priority is at that moment. I plan everything well ahead so I know exactly what I have to do when I wake up in the morning — and then, I just step up and do it. There isn’t really a secret to it but I think it helps to figure it out for yourself and discover when you are most productive. For me, I prefer doing tasks that require me to be more focused — like my research — during the day, and leaving the more “chill” activities for the night — like planning events or replying to emails.
In between hours like during meal times or when I’m on the train, I’ll be watching old movies because that’s also what I love. It’s my own way of finding time away from work and relaxing so I can continue with my day. I can’t not do anything at any single point of time!
4. What drives you to accomplish all these projects?
The nature of the tasks that I engage in are very different. When it comes to research – it’s more academic; for my start-up – it’s all about learning different business aspects and being an RA I get to hone more soft skills like interacting with others and making new friends. The opportunity to try new things and learn from these experiences is what sustains me. I taught private tuition a while back but I stopped because I felt that it was too similar to what I was already learning in school. So while the extra pocket money was nice, I tend to be more driven to pursue work that allows me to become a more well-rounded person.
But that said, research will always be my first love — a non-negotiable.
5. What was the process of setting up Magloy Tech? Were there any difficulties you faced?
I think that Singapore’s business ecosystem is very supportive of entrepreneurship, so there weren’t any major difficulties faced when setting up the company. With everything being digitised, I could easily register my start-up online and we were all ready to go! The only challenge that I would say hindered the work flow was the pandemic, that we are still facing now. At that time, we could not go to the lab to test things out, so our progress was virtually zero — but we are playing catch up now, so it’s all good.
Also, I wanted to give a shout out to the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (NUS GRIP) for giving us what we needed to scale our business and solidify our footing in the market. NUS GRIP is a comprehensive step-by-step guidance programme that enables postgraduate students and researchers to transform research into deep technology start-ups. They provided us with the perfect platform needed to get things going and I am so grateful for the support they provided!
6. What was the most important lesson you learnt from setting up Magloy Tech?
I think my own perspective has broadened. Being a Research Fellow, I was heavily influenced by the culture of academia where my path already seemed to be quite set out for me. Most of us going into a PhD want to just study, complete our PhD and then apply for those few, coveted spots to become a Professor. But after setting up my own company, I’ve taken on a fresh perspective on what I can do after I graduate. If I don’t go into academia then that’s okay, there will always be opportunities elsewhere and different paths to go down in life. So don’t limit yourself to just one route; it might change a little along the way and that’s perfectly alright!
7. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are currently still schooling?
If an opportunity presents itself, go ahead and pursue it! Although many already have passions and goals that they are actively working towards, there is also another group of people who happened to chance on an opportunity — and that’s the category that I fit into. I’m an accidental entrepreneur. There are so many things to explore; go ahead and try things just to figure out if you like it or not. No one really expects you to be super successful when you’re still schooling and just starting out, so be open to taking risks and accepting that failure might be a part of it.
Of course, be wise about it. Before taking on these projects, ask yourself these two questions: First, are you ready to do it and second, are people ready to accept it? If either one of these components are missing, then maybe you’ll need to tweak your plan along the way. But once you’re in it, dialogue with professionals in your community and communicate with everyone — there’s lots to learn!
If there’s one thing that we took away from speaking with our accidental entrepreneur Guru, it is that life will surprise us in many ways when we work hard and seize opportunities as they come along. In the closing words of the ambitious man himself: “If you don’t take the chance, then you lose the chance to complain”. And how true that is – we miss 100% of all the shots we never take. If there’s something you’re dreaming of doing or trying, you should do it. Take this article as your sign, and go for it!
Gururaj continues to be an RA in PGPR Residence 4 today, and we’re so grateful for his driven nature and spirit to be part of the residential community.
Do you know any interesting people we should feature next on our blog? Tell us in the comments below or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!